House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Rivière-du-Nord (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we would like things to be different and to not have this doublespeak, but that is unfortunately the case.

If we are to believe the Conservatives, veterans cost a lot of money. Senator Roméo Dallaire, who is well known, took exception to the rumour that veterans cost a lot of money and that we should not pay for them. That is how some Conservatives think, and they try to negotiate by cutting the costs of our military involvement throughout the world.

When we participate in a military operation in a given area, the primary costs are not related to the intervention itself, but to support for injured soldiers, who need help when they return to Canada. The United States learned that the hard way during the recent conflict in Afghanistan.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, if I contrast the government's campaign and what is actually happening before the courts with our Afghanistan veterans, it is shameful. Absolutely shameful.

Afghanistan veterans are now forced to go to court to have their rights recognized. How can that be? Government lawyers claim that the government does not have a moral obligation towards them. That is totally wrong.

This is doublespeak here. On the one hand, the government claims to support veterans, and on the other hand, it is forcing them to go to court. That is unacceptable. Fortunately we are here to talk about it, otherwise we would only get one side of the story.

I spoke about this issue this evening and in particular about Equitas, and I noticed that there are not many Conservative members on the other side of the House. That is unfortunate. I will take another question if there is time.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Western Arctic.

As many of my colleagues have said, we are going to support this bill, but we do not think that it goes far enough. We think that it raises questions that the government needs to answer.

First, with regard to the priority given to members of the Canadian Forces who are released for medical reasons, we are wondering what will happen to members who are released for medical reasons when the department or the board does not recognize the connection between their injury and their service. This affects me personally because I have been in touch with a veteran, Mr. Scalise, who resigned from the Canadian Forces because he was suffering from burnout; however, he failed to inform the armed forces that his situation was related to post-traumatic stress.

For four years now, Mr. Scalise has been fighting to have his situation recognized as being connected to his years of service. According to the bill before us, his priority entitlement period is almost up.

First, I believe that the time it is taking to process Mr. Scalise's file is ridiculously long and unacceptable. Second, the bill as it stands does not address Mr. Scalise's needs. This man could very well go back to school, upgrade his skills in various areas and eventually get a job. However, he will not have time to do so if the bill is passed as is.

Whether at the CEGEP or the university level, it takes between two and four years for veterans to acquire a specialization that will allow them to make the transition to a civilian job. We therefore have to give these veterans time to heal and get treatment for their post-traumatic stress before they go back to school.

This transition takes time. It does not happen overnight. The committee should look at this issue again to ensure that the bill that is eventually passed meets the expectations of veterans and truly allows them to reintegrate into the civilian world and the labour market.

The skills acquired in the military are not necessarily automatically transferable to civilian life. Skills upgrading is required. What is more, the private sector is not really aware of the qualifications or technical skills that soldiers develop. A collaborative effort needs to be made here. In fact, the ombudsman proposed measures to that effect, but they seem to have been completely left out of the current bill. That is too bad.

Under the new legislation, the system will have to adjudicate an individual's file to determine if the medical release is related to service or not. That is the case for Mr. Scalise. Like the ombudsman, we have concerns about this administrative uncertainty when it comes to maintaining hiring priority.

Would it not be better to use the recognition of the link between the injury and the service to determine the accessibility and length of the priority entitlement? This could be done in two ways: either the reason for release is designated “service-related medical release” or the link between the injury and the service is recognized by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Either way, we want the system to be consistent. That way some of the red tape can be avoided and we could ensure that veterans do not lose their priority entitlement. That is central to our argument.

This bill also creates categories of veterans; that is another issue. The NDP supports the principle of having a single category of veterans.The bill takes another direction. Veterans of the RCMP are not included in the bill and remain in the regulatory category. I think that a member of the RCMP who suffered a trauma and wanted to get out of the policing environment because it reminds him of the trauma should have hiring priority. He practically gave his life to serve the public. It is only right that the government acknowledge that it has a social and moral obligation to that individual, just as it is only right that the government acknowledge that it has a moral obligation to the people it sends into various conflicts or on various missions.

According to what I read in the veterans' class action suit against the government, the government does not even acknowledge this moral obligation. That is so sad. It is implied. I hope that the veterans will win their case against the government and that their lawsuit will be successful. I hope that the government has a moral duty to people whom it sends into conflicts and who return injured. I hope that we have a moral duty to support them and to ensure that these people get quality care, have a rehabilitation process supported by the government and have access to jobs offered by the government.

There is another side to this coin. At present, we are in a situation where different departments are systematically downsizing. Since the arrival of the majority Conservative government, there has been a series of cuts. Jobs have been systematically cut in different departments, and even if the veterans are given hiring priority, the jobs have to exist. If departments are not hiring, this priority is completely meaningless because there are no jobs available. There is no correlation.

I think this is a weakness that must be studied in committee, and we must ensure that this hiring priority is based on something concrete. It is unrealistic. They will not be able to implement it. I find that too bad.

I will not have time to talk about all the statistics, but there are not many veterans who find jobs in the public service compared to the number of veterans who have access to these types of jobs and the number of veterans who are qualified for these jobs.

We have been told that of the 4,000 veterans who could have been entitled to these jobs, 200 applied and 63 were hired. The employment priority really applies to a very small number of people. That is another aspect that will have to be analyzed in committee to determine what other support could be provided to those members who have finished their military career and those who have been injured in order to ease the career transition to civilian life. We must ensure that there is a transition. For the time being, there are weaknesses in that regard in what we have before us.

Points of Order May 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in answer to my question, the minister mentioned a Mr. Figueroa. My question was about the Zamudio family.

Citizenship and Immigration May 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Zamudio family has been living in Saint-Jérôme for almost four years and will be deported to Mexico by June 25 despite receiving repeated death threats from the drug cartel.

A claim for refugee protection on humanitarian grounds was submitted to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration last October. As the safety of the four family members is at issue, can the minister tell us whether he has made a decision or can he commit to making a decision before the Zamudio family is deported?

Business of Supply May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question and for what he shared.

Claude-Henri Grignon, who wrote Un homme et son péché and the entire series that followed, Les belles histoires des pays d'en haut, is sort of like our Pagnol. The show is set in a small village with archetypal characters, villains, stories and gossip. He created a universe that was a lot like Pagnol's.

I am pleased that young people are enjoying the show and its legacy. It is part of our history. Of course, there is a romantic aspect to it, but there are many parts of the series that reflect what our ancestors experienced. I am pleased to hear that the member enjoyed it.

Business of Supply May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is the Conservative and neo-liberal line: private companies do things better than public corporations. Surreptitiously and gradually, public services are allowed to deteriorate so that it becomes easy to justify doing away with them and moving toward the private sector. The Conservatives have completely forgotten the concept of public service. Just like Margaret Thatcher's neo-liberal supporters, the Conservatives think we live in a vast market. Everything is about the market. That is not true. We can live in a society with institutions that connect people with each other.

Business of Supply May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the funding for the institution, I think I spent 10 minutes explaining that the essence of this corporation does not lie in the number of ads it shows or the number of viewers it has, but rather in its ability to inspire people to see and recognize themselves, to understand each other and to be informed. I personally question the whole issue of ads on public television. I do not want to speak for my party on this matter, but honestly, since the minister asked me the question, I change the channel whenever there is an ad.

Business of Supply May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Today, I will talk about things that people under the age of 40 know nothing about. I will also talk about things that people in the rest of Canada know nothing or very little about: the tremendous contribution that the French arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has made to the development of the Quebec nation's identity.

Radio-Canada first entered Quebec homes over radio and television airwaves during the time known as the “grande noirceur”, the great darkness. We were an oppressed and nearly voiceless people.

To Quebeckers, Radio-Canada's French network is more than a television network. It was one of the most powerful enablers of our collective emancipation. If the Quebec nation is aware of its distinct nature within North America, if it is aware that it is a distinct society within Canada, I believe that is due in large part to the amazing legacy bequeathed to us by Radio-Canada broadcasts.

That is why I get worried when the government cuts funding for our French-language public broadcaster. Radio-Canada is a diamond, and if you want to bring out the best in a diamond, you do not use a hammer. You use knowledge and finesse to make it even more beautiful and useful. That is not what I am seeing now in the government's cuts to the corporation.

Will the government continue to weaken and emasculate this cultural tool that is critically important to maintaining the French fact in North America?

I remember when we were kids sitting in front of the TV. The first time we turned the TV on, Radio-Canada had just come on the air. We saw that picture of the Indian who was waiting, just like we were, for the shows to start. Little did we know that our world was about to change.

I am a child of the Quiet Revolution. I am a child of the public schools, but there is something else I am proud of: I am a child of Radio-Canada. I watched La Boîte à surprise, and there are others here who remember it. Those programs were catalysts and incubators for Quebeckers' creativity, and that creativity is now our calling card internationally in both arts and culture and in business.

I remember Sol et Gobelet, those two wild and crazy guys played by Favreau and Durand, who looked at spaces and objects in different ways. In those two characters, how can we not see a foreshadowing of what Robert Lepage would do in his productions? They are not so different. That is where the ideas were hatched. I think back to La Ribouldingue, with Mandibule, Bedondaine, Paillasson, Friponneau, Dame Plume and Giroflée. After them came the casts of the Cirque du Soleil. There is not a lot of creative distance between the imaginary world that Radio-Canada created for children and what has now been created for children and grown-ups the world over. That was where it came to life: on Radio-Canada.

Growing up with an imaginary world is fantastic. At the same time, our eyes were opened to this planet. Our eyes were opened and our minds were inspired by fantastic voices, francophone voices. My mind goes back to Henri Bergeron opening Les beaux dimanches: “Mesdames et messieurs, bienvenue, voici Les Beaux dimanches”.

What we were seeing on television was the dawning of our culture. I remember seeing Michel Tremblay's play Hosanna, with that incredible transvestite as a character. That is where the darkness from which we were emerging gave way to the light ahead.

I also remember the joy in listening to the wonderful, intelligent voices of Jean-Maurice Bailly and René Lecavalier. They hosted La soirée du hockey and dissected every hockey game using their words as precisely and skilfully as if they were master craftsmen. They were magicians of the spoken word and masters of French. That was the Radio-Canada of my childhood. They introduced us to all our heroes on skates, of course, and they were francophone heroes. That told us that we Quebeckers were good and quick on our skates too. That is what those commentators told us. It was wonderful.

On another level, I remember René Lévesque on Point de mire. René Lévesque, the greatest Quebec premier in history, ensured Quebec's survival for decades to come with Bill 101, which allows us to integrate immigrants into the French language in Quebec. I remember one episode of Point de mire in particular. René Lévesque was talking about the importance of unions in society. He had his blackboard—he always worked with a blackboard—and talked about capital—not a word we hear a lot—about trade unions and about the importance of the balance between the two in ensuring that wealth was distributed. That is what unions were for. To me, it seems that the show should be rerun quite often. The members opposite would learn a lot from that show and from that great man.

There are also the women of CBC television who paved the way for the emancipation of women in Quebec. I am thinking of Aline Desjardins, Jeannette Bertrand and Lise Payette, to name but a few. I remember how my father hated them. He said that those women got my mother all worked up. She no longer wanted to prepare the meals or iron my father's shirts. My father accused the women of CBC television of having an influence on this behaviour. The women of CBC/Radio-Canada made us better men, better fathers, better husbands, and better partners. Those women changed us and Quebec society. That is why we are proud of CBC/Radio-Canada.

On my way here I was remembering other shows such as Quelle famille! We watched that show every week. We identified with the characters in the shows we watched: Les Couche-Tard with Roger Baulu and Jacques Normand; the major dramas, such as Un homme et son péché—22 years of avarice—and Le temps d'une paix with Rose-Anna and Ti-Coune. I do not think there is a French network in the world that has produced as many fine shows with as much creativity and connection to a people as the French section of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

I could go on for an hour celebrating all the magic this institution created back home, but the underhanded attack on the news service concerns me. The news service is affected by the latest cuts and that doubly concerns me. For one thing, it is the main news source, not to mention the most consistent and most reliable one, that we have in Quebec. For another, this affects Mr. Gravel's team of journalists on the program Enquête in particular.

If Alain Gravel were living in the United States, he would have won the Pulitzer Prize. The first-hand information he gathered that led to the Charbonneau commission is the type of information that brings down governments. I hope that Radio-Canada will not suffer unduly as a result of these cuts because I expect that our very own Eliot Ness will come stick his nose in the Conservatives' business. He would come to Ottawa, look at SNC-Lavalin's contracts and the Conservative donors and see whether there are some front men involved. That is the type of journalism we need and it is going to be affected by these cuts. I find that truly dangerous for democracy.

The Conservative government started by going after scientists, whose findings and studies it does not like, and now it is turning toward journalists, whose investigations and analyses it does not like. What are things coming to? That is my question.

On that note, I agree to answer some questions.

Congratulations to my colleague.

Le patrimoine canadien May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today, while the NDP is fighting in the chamber to support CBC as it weathers a crisis, the government is saying that it has no hand in it. It is the same old story. However, it was this government that slashed $115 million.

It is time that the government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages took responsibility.

CBC is vital to our regions and the Canadian Francophonie. I would like to give the minister the opportunity to give a responsible answer.

What will the minister do to address the concerns of francophones in Saint-Boniface, Moncton, Sudbury and Vancouver?